As you know from last Sunday evening, we have begun a little bit of a series on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. Since the events of September 11th, we have been engaged in assessing that biblically, and I preached a number of messages related to that event on terrorism, on war, on what happens to babies that die, on can God bless America. We’ve covered all of those kinds of things.
And by the way, on December 10th, I think it is, the book will be released called Terrorism, Jihad, and the Bible. I have to fly back to Nashville this week to do some work with a force of people who will market all of that, and we’re hoping and praying that will have an impact because it contains the gospel. And if we can draw people into that event because they’re interested in it and then show them the gospel, that will be a wonderful, wonderful thing. So you can pray to that end.
But having said what we needed to say about that and having a few weeks before we begin a new book study, I couldn’t think of anything more important than to address the issue of Scripture, the Word of God, and the authority of the Word of God. And I know you believe this, I said that last week. It’s why you’re here, it’s why you’re in this church, with the exception of those who perhaps are new or visiting with us tonight.
We are committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God, always have been. It’s very definitive for us. And we have been saying all along in this series that God only wrote one book and it’s the Bible, and that’s it. God has spoken and He spoke in one book, made up of 66 units, 39 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New. Basically, one author, one book, and that is the beginning, middle, and end of the revelation of God, written.
That, then, is the authority for the church. Amazingly, today, however, there is in the evangelical church hostility toward biblical preaching. In fact, such hostility toward biblical preaching - which makes people like me some kind of dinosaur, something anachronistic, something archaic - that kind of hostility, frankly, betrays a low view of the Bible as to its absolute truthfulness, as to its utter authority, and as to its complete sufficiency.
Biblical, expositional preaching of the Word of God has been replaced by many forms of sort of pacification, I guess you could call them. It’s like giving your congregation a pacifier, which provides no nourishment. People suck hard and get nothing. There is today an effort to pacify people but not to give them the real milk, the nourishment of the Word of God. There’s a resistance to preaching the Bible because it may offend people. And the point today seems to be to make Christ acceptable to sinners. Isn’t that interesting?
The church today is eager to make Christ acceptable to sinners. The truth is we need to tell sinners how they can become acceptable to God. It grieves me, this trend, it grieves me no end. In fact, today I finished this afternoon a final editing on another little book that’s going to come out called Why One Way? And it’s a call back to the Word of God. This has been much on my heart. I am constantly grieved to see the Bible dishonored. I am constantly grieved to see its glorious, supernatural, sanctifying truths ignored or misrepresented or treated in a shallow way, a careless way.
I was reading a book this week called Mother Kirk by Doug Wilson. I don’t usually read prolonged sections, but this is worth reading. Doug Wilson writes, “We live in an era which places a high value on hardness of heart. We can tell this by our love of soft teaching. We like to believe that this love of soft words, words which will trouble neither the mind nor heart, nor anything in between, is a deep love of tenderness. Such a conviction flatters us, but our love is actually the opposite of tenderness.
“The one who is really concerned about tenderness would be calling for a jackhammer. Hard words, hard teaching are the jackhammers of God. It takes a great deal” - he writes - “to break up our hard hearts, and the God of all mercy is willing to do it, but always does it according to His Word. And His Word is not easy on us as we would like. Jeremiah 23:29 says, ‘Is not my Word like a fire,’ says the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?’” Wilson goes on. “When Christians call for smooth words, easy words, the result is hard people. When we submit to hard words, we become the tenderhearted of God.
“But let soft words have their way in a congregation, let soft words dominate the pulpit, and the hardness of heart begins to manifest itself in countless ways. But the common denominator is always that of granite hearts. Marriages dissolve, heresies proliferate, parents abandon children, churches split, children heap contempt on their parents, quarrels erupt on the elder board and in the choir, bitterness, rancor, envy and malice abound and all because the people will not abide that loathsome jackhammer, ‘Thou shalt not.’”
He concludes, this statement, “We have come to the point, both in the church and in the nation, where anyone who speaks a hard word is automatically assumed to be displaying his own hard heart. He is harsh and divisive. He is unloving.” End quote.
Soft words, hard hearts because the hammer doesn’t do its work. The foundation of such an apostasy in preaching, such a defection from preaching the Bible, the foundation is a lack of trust in the Bible, a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit’s use of the Bible because clearly, the Bible is central to the church. It gives the church its identity. The church is what the Bible says it is. The gospel is what the Bible says it is. You, as a sinner, are what the Bible says you are. You, as a believer, are what the Bible says you are. Faith is what the Bible says it is. Love is what the Bible says it is. Grace is what the Bible says it is. Judgment is what the Bible says it is. You get the drift?
What the Bible says about everything is exactly the way it is. The Bible is the reality. The Bible and only the Bible holds absolute authority over the doctrine, the life, and the proclamation of the church. And it is a binding authority - not only on the church, but it extends that authority over the entire realm of humanity. The Bible sits in judgment on the whole human race. And it is interesting to me that while the church is under the authority of the Bible, at the same time, the church is the guardian and interpreter of the Bible. It’s interesting.
It is over us in authority, and yet it is ours to protect. Doug Wilson was writing about this in one of the chapters in his book and he said, “The church is responsible to God to be the guardian of the Bible.” And then he says, “What happened when the major Bible publisher, Zondervan, was purchased by Rupert Murdoch, a non-believer, who owns Fox Network,” et cetera, et cetera. He said, “How did Rupert Murdoch get in charge of the Bible? Whoever did that,” he says, “should be flogged.” It’s interesting.
Who really is the guardian of Scripture? The same people who are under its authority. Tragically, the Bible is mostly in the hands of careless people, publishers who can be very, very careless and who don’t represent the will of the church but are concerned more often about the bottom line. And the Bible is in the hands of wealthy Christian entrepreneurs who can figure out all kinds of ways to market the Bible and elements of it. And the Bible is very often in the hands of radio and TV personalities who get on Christian television and Christian radio and represent the Bible the way they think it should be represented.
And the Bible is in the hands of writers - albeit Christian writers - who write things about the Bible, which sometimes are true and very often are not. The Bible is in the hands of musicians who deem themselves Christian musicians and take the Word of God and put it into the most bizarre musical forms. And the Bible is in the hands of liberally influenced professors who sit in ivory tower educational environments and fancy themselves as intellectuals who have the academic right to assault the simple teaching of Scripture.
And the Bible is often in the hands of careless journalists who get some kind of glee out of attacking everything that Christians have always believed the Bible taught. And sometimes the Bible is in the hands of pastors influenced by the retinue I just gave you. But nonetheless, the Bible tends to be mostly in the hands of careless people and that is frightening in its implications. First of all, it should be in the hands of people who believe it is the Word of God and the only Word of God, those who would believe that it is, as we saw last time, both infallible and inerrant.
And it should be in the hands of those who know how to interpret it accurately because the meaning of the Scripture is the Scripture. If you don’t have the meaning, you don’t have the Scripture. Misinterpreting the Bible, that’s not the Bible. The true interpretation of the Bible, that’s the Bible. It should be in the hands of those who understand it to be the absolute, authoritative, inerrant, infallible Word of God and who rightly divide it. And when in the hands of those people - and in every era, there always are those faithful people - when it’s in their hands, when they proclaim it, Peter said in 1 Peter 4:11, “It is the oracles of God.”
In fact, I would go so far as to say this: When the preacher preaches the Bible truly, he speaks as Christ speaks. You know, that’s an interesting statement. We are under-shepherds of Christ, we all would acknowledge that, but to say that when the preacher truly preaches the Scripture and represents it the way God intended it to be represented, when he gets the meaning right and it truly is the Scripture, it is Christ speaking.
If you remember, in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.” We’re His sheep. When do we hear His voice? We hear His voice when He speaks the truth through His servant. It is an infallible Scripture in the mouth of a fallible preacher. Fallible doesn’t mean he’s always wrong - better not - just means he’s not perfect. But we can study to show ourselves approved unto God.
Isn’t it amazing that God has taken an infallible Word and gives it to His church through fallible preachers? But that’s how Christ speaks. That’s how the sheep hear His voice. I don’t want to stand on the outside and tell you about the Bible, I want to let the Bible speak. Listen to what it says. Luke 11:28, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.” John 17:17, “Thy Word is truth.” Acts 17:11, “Now, these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica for they received the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” That’s the kind of response the Lord wants - to hear it, to obey it, to eagerly examine it.
In Acts chapter 20, the apostle Paul said, “I didn’t shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable and teaching you publicly and from house to house. I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. And now I commend you to God and the Word of His grace which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
Paul says: I was faithful and I gave you the Word and I gave you the whole counsel of God and I held nothing back because I know the Word is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance as it sanctifies you, by its powerful truth it sanctifies you” - that’s John 17:17 - sanctify them by thy truth, thy Word is truth. As the Word sanctifies you and you live a sanctified life, you then, by virtue of your sanctified living, gain a greater eternal inheritance. And so Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the Word of Christ” - that’s the Scripture - “richly dwell within you with all wisdom.” Let the truth dominate your life with its wisdom.
Commending the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul wrote, “For this reason, we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the Word of God’s message” - that’s the infallible Word coming through a fallible preacher - “when you received it, you accepted it not as the word of men” - isn’t that amazing? - “but for what it really is, the Word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” Paul was inspired when he wrote. He wrote an inerrant text under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But he wasn’t an inspired man.
When we talk about the doctrine of inspiration, we’re talking about the text being inspired, we’re not talking about the man being inspired. He was a fallible man. When he sat down to write Scripture, he wrote infallibly and inerrantly under the supervision of the Holy Spirit because the Scripture was inspired by God and protected against error. But the rest of the time in his ministry, he was a preacher like other preachers, and yet he says that when we preach, you receive from us the Word of God’s message - accept it not as the word of man but what it really is, the Word of God.
What’s better than that? What’s better than Christ speaking to His church, God speaking to His people through the preacher, giving them the Word of Christ so that it can richly dwell in them and provide all wisdom? Hebrews 4:12 and 13, “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.” It’s the sharpest weapon there is. “It pierces as far as the division of soul and spirit, it cuts the very person apart, divides joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts, intentions of the heart. No creature is hidden from its sight. All things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”
What the Scripture does is just expose everything. And then so many more testimonies to the Scripture are given. I’m not going to go through all of them. But to sum it up, what we just said, the Bible is divine truth which blesses those who obey it. The Bible is to be received and examined with great eagerness for what it yields, the truth of God. The Bible builds up believers in this life and, therefore, enriches their eternal inheritance. The Bible, richly understood, produces wisdom which yields praise and thanksgiving as we speak to ourselves in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
The Bible powers believers in sanctification and service. The Bible discerns and reveals everything. The Bible causes people even to be born again. First Peter chapter 2, “You have been born again not of seed, which is perishable, but imperishable; that is, through the living and abiding Word of God.” “Saving faith comes by hearing a message about Christ,” Romans 10 says. The Bible is actually the mind of Christ. You want to know how He thinks? Read the Bible.
When Scripture says we have the mind of Christ, that’s not a mystical experience, all it means is you think the way Jesus thinks, and you know exactly how He thinks because He’s revealed it in the Bible. The more you know the Bible, the more you think the way He thinks.
Listen to 1 Corinthians 2. “Which things we also speak not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, he cannot understand them because they’re spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man, for who has known the mind of the Lord that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” What an incredible reality. Nobody can instruct God, but God has given us His mind.
I know exactly how Christ thinks. That’s not brash, that’s not bold, that’s not egotistical. I know how Christ thinks. I know how He would assess any situation because the Bible tells me. I know how God responds to human behavior. I know what honors God and what doesn’t because He’s laid it out. Christ thinks the same way God thinks.
Now, if the Bible tells us how God thinks about everything, then what is there to do but to preach the Bible? I mean all of this cries out for a commitment to Scripture. And Peter went on to say in 1 Peter 1:24 and 25, “All flesh is like grass, in all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, the flower falls off, but the Word of the Lord” - what? - “abides forever. And this is the Word which was preached to you.” And there, again, you have the infallible Word coming through a fallible preacher, constituting what God intended.
This is God’s plan, that fallible men, who diligently study and pursue under the power of the Spirit of God a true knowledge of Scripture and a true interpretation, preach the Word of God and therefore, through them comes the mind of Christ so that the shepherd speaks to his sheep. This has always been God’s plan. First Corinthians 1:18 to 21, “The word of the cross is, to those who are perishing, foolishness, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” And then the questions. “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”
The world doesn’t have any way of ascertaining divine truth. The world doesn’t have any way to come to the knowledge of God, to know the mind of God or the mind of Christ. You can take the wisest of the wise, you can take the writers, the scribes, you can take the debaters, the most erudite philosophers, pile them all up, and all you get are fools who cannot discern the wisdom of God. Verse 21, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom didn’t come to know God.”
All of the best that the world has to offer intellectually will never come to know God. On the other hand, “God was well pleased” - I love this - “through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.” And, again, we’re back again to this incredible plan of God that an infallible Word is to be passed to the world and the church through a fallible preacher. It is God’s plan to save through preaching.
Well, preaching has fallen on hard times, too, hasn’t it? You have people sitting on stools and meandering around, giving little talks. My dad used to call them sermonettes for Christianettes. The infallible Word of God preached through fallible men who know the Word, live it, and are empowered and gifted by the Holy Spirit to proclaim it, that has been and is God’s plan for proclaiming the truth. Listen to Romans 10, verses 13 to 17, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
That’s the principle, whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?” And how shall they hear without a music video? I don’t think so. How shall they hear without a - you say, “You’re just up there justifying your job.” You better believe it. That’s exactly what I’m doing. “How shall they preach unless they’re sent?” So faith comes by hearing the preacher who preaches the Word of Christ.
The apostles understood this crucial role of preaching the Word of God. Listen to Paul’s testimony. Titus 1, “Paul, a bondservant of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life which God who cannot lie promised long ages ago.”
Remember we looked at those verses? God says - Paul says, “I have a three-fold ministry. I preach the gospel to the elect so they can believe, I give the knowledge of the truth to those who believe so they can become godly, and I preach the hope of eternal life so they can deal with the problems and issues of life by keeping their focus on heaven.” In other words, I preach justification, sanctification, and glorification.
“All of this God promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested even His Word in the preaching of which I was entrusted.” When you look at a church, what you should see is what the Bible defines as a church, people gathered together to hear Christ speak, to know the mind of Christ, the mind of God, the Word of God, the Word of Christ, the infallible, inerrant Word being dispensed through the faithful preacher to whom has been entrusted the proclamation of this truth according, Paul says, to the commandment of God our Savior. It’s not optional.
That commandment was reiterated from Paul to Timothy when, in 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul said to Timothy, “Preach the Word.” And when Paul preached, and when any faithful person preaches, it is as if they have received a message from heaven. It is as if God has spoken. It is as if the sheep have heard their master’s voice.
I love what it says in Galatians 4:13 and 14, “But you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time, and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you didn’t despise or loathe.” I don’t know what sickness it was, but it must have been a kind of distracting thing - maybe even kind of gross. But he went on and preached the gospel, and he says at the end of Galatians 4:14, “But you received me as an angel of God” - you received me as if I’d come down from heaven, you received me as an angel of God - listen to this - comma - “as Christ Jesus Himself.” Incredible. Christ Himself?
When the preacher comes with the true Word, he comes as Christ to the church. Better than an angel - he comes as Christ. Why? Because he reveals the mind of Christ to his people. When Paul referred to his preaching to the Ephesians, he said this in Ephesians 4:20, “You didn’t learn Christ in this way.” Ephesian people had never met Christ. They’d never heard Him speak. By the time the gospel got to them, He was long ascended. But Paul says, “You didn’t learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and been taught in Him.”
How had they been taught in Christ? How had they learned Christ? How had they heard Christ? He goes on to say, “Well, you heard the truth that is in Jesus.” Through whom did they hear it? Through him. Boy, that is some high calling. And that’s why there is a serious note given to Timothy by Paul. Second Timothy 4:1, “I solemnly command you in the presence of God” - He’s watching - “and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead and by His appearing and His kingdom” - boy, this is a pretty solemn charge.
“I’m commanding you in the presence of God and Jesus Christ and Christ is going to judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom, there’s judgment here and I’m telling you, preach the Word.” That is a high level of accountability, preach the Word, because God is watching, Christ is watching, and you’re going to be judged for your faithfulness to it.
So what should be going on in a church? You hear people say, “Oh, you know, the sermon’s too long.” Impossible. You want to hear a word from Christ? Want to hear a word from your shepherd? A preacher is duty-bound to rightly represent the Word, to be diligent to show himself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be - what? - shamed and a misrepresentation of the truth of God is a reason for shame. It’s a lot of work to get it right, and we don’t always get it right, but when we don’t, we need to rapidly make it right.
What about when people aren’t interested in this or don’t respond to it? Should we change our method? Is that the right approach? Hebrews 4:2, “For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also, but the Word they heard didn’t profit them because it wasn’t united or mixed with faith in those who heard.”
I don’t expect everybody to respond to the preached Word. There’s nothing wrong with the Word, nothing wrong with the Lord talking to His church. The problem is not with the message, the problem is with the hearer, isn’t it?
Now, what I’ve tried to do is let the Bible speak for itself, and I’ve given you a long list of verses. If I didn’t preach the Word, I would feel like Paul who said, “Woe is unto me.” I’d feel I was going to be in the next natural disaster or I was going to get my own supernatural execution. I’d feel like I was stepping right into the fierce judgment of God. And yet in the face of all that the Scripture says, all that I’ve recited for you tonight, the Bible is still not given its place in the church, still not given its place in the pulpit.
Preachers are still not faithful to teach the whole counsel of God and exposit the Scripture. Still careless, flippant. Some of it is so profoundly distressing to me when the misrepresentation of the Word of God is applauded and believed and supported. That is a grave tragedy.
Well, all of that just kind of leads me to Psalm 19. When we come to Psalm 19 - and I’m going to talk about this tonight for a little while and then next week we’ll talk some more about Psalm 19 - we find here, I think, the greatest statement, concise statement, in Scripture on the sufficiency of the Bible. I had a conversation with my friend, R. C. Sproul, the other day and he asked me to come down to the Ligonier Conference in Florida again this year. And I said, “Well, what do you want me to talk about?” “Well,” he said, “we’re going to go to war down there this year.” Actually in March, I think, next year.
I said, “What’s the battle?” He said, “Well, we’re going to go to war over the Word of God, and I want you to speak on all the ways in which the Bible is being attacked. And then we’re going to - we’re going to exalt the Word of God.” Well, I’m thrilled about that because the Bible is relentlessly attacked. There are attacks, of course, from liberals. They’re denying the Bible. There are attacks from Charismatics who say they get visions and God talks so that the Bible is not the singular Word, God is still speaking and He told me this and He told me that. That undermines the singularity of Scripture.
There are attacks from the sort of Christian philosophers who think that the Bible has limits as to its purview, there are many issues that it doesn’t address, it’s not relevant, it’s antiquated. There are all kinds of attacks on the Scripture by every imaginable kind of philosophy. Attacks today in this post-modern environment which denies anything, such as absolute truth, and so it goes.
But the attack that bothers me the most - because it seems to be the one that dominates the church - is this belief that somehow the Word isn’t sufficient to change people. It’s just in and of itself not capable of doing what I can do with my cleverness. It’s this idea that somehow the Bible has limitations, and so we have to help it a bit. So what we really need to do is come up with our own stuff that fits the culture and sort of proof-text it with some verses, usually taken out of context.
Whenever I think about this issue of scriptural sufficiency, that the Bible can and does do everything that needs to be done, I come to Psalm 19. Let’s look in the middle of the Psalm at verse 7. “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure” - or clear, better - “enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The judgments of the Lord are true, they are righteous altogether.” We’ll stop right there.
Three verses. The only text of Scripture that can be compared to these three verses is Psalm 119. And I know you all live in mortal fear that I will threaten to do an exposition of Psalm 119 with 176 verses and never finish, so I won’t do that. But both Psalm 19 and Psalm 119 say the same thing. Psalm 19 says it very concisely; Psalm 119 says it in an expansive way. The two passages are without question the surpassing statements on the sufficiency of Scripture. And this is the Bible’s own testimony to its power and its comprehensive sufficiency. We will look at Psalm 19, but I will cross-reference Psalm 119 as we work our way through these three verses.
Now, let me just give you a little bit of a look at the whole psalm. The psalm is about God’s revelation, about God revealing Himself. The first six verses are about what theologians call natural revelation, the heavens telling the glory of God, their expanse declaring the work of His hands day to day, so forth and so on. You can see God in the creation. There is even an orbit in which the sun moves across the endless universe, dragging our entire solar system with it, and that kind of ends up there in verses 4, 5, and 6.
So the first six verses are about what we call natural revelation; that is, God has revealed Himself in the creation. Romans 1 says so clearly that man is without excuse if he doesn’t see God in creation. Then, in verse 7, we move from general revelation, or natural revelation, to what is called special revelation or verbal revelation. And in verse 7, we start to refer to the Scripture here, the law of the Lord. Now we’re getting to the special revelation. By the general revelation, you can know God exists. And as Romans 1 says, you can know his Godhead and His power, but you can’t know the gospel.
You can’t know what’s required of you, you can’t know the law of God any more than that which is written in your conscience. There’s not a writing of the gospel there. There’s not a full theology proper that is about God, there’s not a soteriology, there’s not a Christology, it’s not a pneumatology. And so, to get the full understanding of the gospel in all its length and breadth and height and depth, you have to have the written revelation.
So you come to verses 7 to 9, and you move from the natural revelation about God to the special revelation in Scripture. And this is a very, very simple, carefully-crafted section of Scripture, and I’m always amazed - you know this, but I’m always amazed at God’s ability to say everything He needs to say with an economy of words. I have no facility for that - God does. God can say everything that needs to be said in as few words as are absolutely necessary. His - this Bible is pure in that it is at its irreducible minimum. It is exactly the precise way God wanted to say what He wanted to say.
And here you have six lines, two in verse 7 - notice them - two in verse 8 and two in verse 9. Six lines. Each of the six lines has three elements. There are six titles for Scripture. Verse 7, the law of the Lord, the testimony of the Lord. Verse 8, the precepts of the Lord, the commandment of the Lord. Verse 9, the fear of the Lord, the judgments of the Lord. Those are all titles for Scripture. It is law, testimony. it is precept, it is commandment, it is fear, and it is judgments. And we’ll explain those as we go.
Secondly, there are not only six titles for Scripture, but six characteristics. It is perfect, it is sure, it is right, it is pure (or better, clear), it is clean, and it is true. Now, these are exhaustive descriptions of Scripture. And on top of six titles and six characteristics, you have six benefits. It restores the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, endures forever, and produces comprehensive righteousness - or as verse 9 says, righteous altogether.
Here is the magnitude of the sufficiency of Scripture in these six lines. Now, just so that nobody is at all able to make a mistake, the Scripture is given six titles, but there is an appellation to each of those six titles which makes it clear who the author is. Verse 7, it is the law of the Lord, it is the testimony of the Lord, the precepts of the Lord, the commandment of the Lord, the fear of the Lord, and the judgments of the Lord.
It is unmistakable that the covenant name of Yahweh is the origin of Scripture. No matter how you cut it, whether you’re looking at the Bible and seeing the law of God or God’s testimony or precepts or commandments or fear, instruction for worship or judgments, adjudications from the divine bench of the judge of all the earth. No matter what angle, no matter what refracted glory of the diamond of Scripture you’re looking at, it is always of the Lord. He is the author of it all.
So here is the inspired testimony of God, the author of Scripture, to its sufficiency. It can restore the soul, make wise the simple, rejoice the heart, enlighten the eyes, endure forever, produce comprehensive righteousness. When you’ve said that, you’ve said it all, and you’ll see that as it unfolds.
Let’s start with the first statement, and maybe we can look at one statement tonight - or two. First of all, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.” Great statement - great statement. That identifies Scripture as law, Torah, and that really is the favorite biblical word for Scripture, the law of the Lord. And it looks at Scripture as divine teaching. It is the Lord’s teaching. It is law in the sense that it is true and, therefore, authoritative. Scripture is God’s teaching to men. It is not optional, it is the divine instruction that has full authority. It is God’s law for life.
Paul said he saw the law of God and he saw that it was holy, just, and good. Sure. In fact, you can look at law as the manual, God’s manual for human conduct. It’s God’s manual for human conduct. It’s God instructing man how to live. This is the law of His realm. This is how life is lived in His kingdom, teaching for life, then. And he says this law of the Lord is perfect - perfect. James ,in the New Testament, calls it the perfect law, set in contrast to the imperfect, flawed reasonings of men.
Men will tell you how to live, but it’s not true. Men will give you a philosophy of life, either ideologically, philosophically, or religiously. Men will give you a psychology of how to live your life, it’s flawed, it’s imperfect, it’s inept, it’s inadequate. But what God gives you is perfect - perfect.
I remember when I first studied Psalm 19, I wanted to know what that word really meant. So I got out a bunch of Hebrew lexicons and I started chasing the word around. I spent, I think, about three hours on that word, and at the end of that time, I discovered that what that word really means is perfect - which, frankly, was a bit disappointing because I hoped after all that time I’d come up with something pretty exotic. But what I did learn was this: It is a perfection not so much as opposed to imperfection, it’s not limited to that, but it is a perfection that is opposed both to imperfection and incompleteness.
It is perfect not only in contrast to what is imperfect, but it is perfect in contrast to what is incomplete. When you say about something, “That’s perfect,” you not only mean it’s superior to something flawed but you mean it’s exactly the way it ought to be. It’s complete, it’s settled. In fact, the best Old Testament scholarship gives this meaning, all sided, S-I-D-E-D, so as to cover all aspects of something.
When you say something is perfect with this Hebrew word, you mean it covers everything. Nothing is left out. Amazing statement. It is not only perfect as opposed to what is imperfect, it is perfect as opposed to what is incomplete. The law of the Lord lacks nothing. And then he adds the benefit, restoring the soul. Now, what is the soul? Well, the Hebrew word for soul is nephesh. It’s a very familiar word. I would guess that in the King James edition, if you have one of those, or New King James, they are probably 21, 22 English words in the Old Testament used to translate that one Hebrew word.
If you have the NAS, it’s probably pretty much the same, or any other translation. It’s amazing how many ways the English translators translate that word, nephesh. It can mean person, self, heart, soul, even name. But we know this, no matter what the English translation, it always means the same thing, the inner person - the inner person - the inner person. That is the soul, the whole eternal person.
Now, those are the parts. Let’s read the statement again. The Scripture is so complete that it can restore the whole inner person. Only one word left to look at, that’s the word “restore.” It can mean restore, revive, can mean renew. But all of those have some limitations. What it really means is to transform - to transform. What is this verse saying? It is saying that the Word of God is so comprehensive as to be able to totally transform the whole inner person. Wow. What a statement. What a statement.
What does that mean? To totally transform the whole inner person? What are the elements of that transformation? Regeneration? Sanctification? Of course. The Scripture, then, is utterly sufficient for the conversion of, the transformation of, the restoration of, the whole person. In other words, it is capable to take a person from spiritual birth and growth all the way to glorification. That’s what the Word does. It’s able to convert, it’s able to save, it’s able to transform, regenerate, sanctify - you throw in whatever your favorite words are. It can do it all.
In the words of 2 Timothy 3:15, The sacred writings, Scripture, are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation. And in the words that I read earlier, 1 Peter 1:23, We are born again not by corruptible seed but by the incorruptible, by the Word of God. If you’re going to evangelize some people, then, what would you use? What would you think would be the best thing to use? The Word of God - the Word of God, which lives and abides forever, and this is the Word by which the gospel was preached to you.
Romans 1:16, The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation. Faith comes by hearing the word about Christ. It’s repeated again and again. And yet when you look at the church today, they have taken the Word, where all the power is, set it aside, and substituted who knows what? Who knows what? I can’t even keep up with it.
One of my friends, Jerry Vines, who’s going to be here for our Shepherds’ Conference, called me one day, he said, “John,” he’s got a slow southern drawl. He said, “John, I have a problem.” I said, “Well, Jerry, what’s your problem?” He said, “John, I am writing a book, and I can’t finish my book.” I said, “Well, Jerry, why?” He said, “Because I’m writing a book on the problems of the church, and just as soon as I have written the last chapter, another problem comes.” I said, “Jerry, you’ll never finish that book. You need a series of books.”
Can’t even keep up with all the wacky ways in which the church replaces the Word of God. I remember one time I was down in Florida, I always think of this when I’m - Psalm 19 - I’m preaching at Sebring, Florida, and afterwards a guy came to me and he said, “Could I talk to you?” And I said sure. Afterwards, the meeting was over, people were going, we sat on the front row and he said, “My name is Tim, and I want to tell you my testimony.” And so he said, “I’m a Jehovah’s Witness, have been a Jehovah’s Witness all my life.”
He said, “I’m in charge of training all the Jehovah’s Witness leaders for Florida.” He said, “My father is the head of the Jehovah’s Witnesses down here, my mother is a Jehovah’s Witness, my brother is a Jehovah’s Witness, my wife, my two sons. So the whole family.” And he said, he said, “I’ve been traveling around Florida all the time, training these leaders and Jehovah’s Witnesses.” And he said, “I was driving in a rental car and I turned the radio on and you came on. I didn’t know who you were.
“But you were preaching ‘Jesus is God,’ you kept saying, and you kept reading Bible verses that supported that Jesus was God, and I was offended and I turned it off. And then,” he said, “I turned it back on again.” And he said, “I was very curious. And this was on a Monday,” he said. “And you just said you were starting a series for two weeks on the fact that Jesus is God and I didn’t believe that. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe that. But something made me listen. I listened every day, the first week. And then on Friday, you said you’d continue the next week, so I went on the next week and I listened every day, ten days in a row, and you just hammered me with the Scriptures to show that Jesus is God.
“It was Friday in a motel not far from here,” he said, “I had listened to the whole series. I fell on my face on my bed, I put my face in the bed and I said, ‘Oh, Jehovah God, who I assume I’ve served all my life, if in fact you came into the world in the form of Jesus Christ, please, please confirm that truth in my heart.” And he said, “At that point, God broke me, I repented of my sin, I rejected what I had always thought. I embraced Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.”
Now, if somebody were to pose the question, How do you reach a Jehovah’s Witness?, you might get 50 different answers. The best way is to let the Word do its work in the hands of the Holy Spirit. Right? Because they’re going to be begotten again like everybody else by the incorruptible Word.
Well, it was a pretty amazing testimony and he said to me, he said, “Pray for me, I’m in some serious trouble.” This was like two weeks ago. He said, “And my heresy trial is coming up and my whole family has turned on me. Pray for my family.” Well, to make a long story short, I received a letter from him. We corresponded back and forth. It was a matter of months that went by, maybe five, six months, and he wrote me and told me his whole family was in Christ. They had all been converted, a major dent in the JW operation in the state of Florida, to be sure.
But it struck me that I had no idea who I was talking to, I had nothing directly suited to a Jehovah’s Witness, but that wasn’t the issue. The issue was the work of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit shattering all the illusions by bringing the truth to bear upon his heart.
Listen, the law of the Lord is so comprehensive, it can totally transform the whole inner person. And if you believe that, then when you get up to speak, that’s what you will speak. If, on the other hand, you get up and don’t do that, then you don’t believe that. It’s a view of Scripture that is at fault. The Word of God is the sea where Christ, the pearl of great price is found. The Word of God is the field where Christ, the hidden treasure, is discovered.
And the testimony of David in Psalm 119 is an echo of this great truth. Listen to what he says in Psalm 119 - I’ll just read you a few - verse 41, “May thy lovingkindness also come to me, O Lord, thy salvation according to thy Word.” Verse 50, “This is my comfort in my affliction, that thy Word has revived me, restored me.” Verse 81, “My soul languishes for thy salvation, I wait for thy Word.”
146: “I cried to thee, ‘Save me and I shall keep thy testimonies.’” 155: “Salvation is far from the wicked for they do not know thy statutes.” How does a wicked person get to the point of understanding salvation? By knowing the statutes of God, the Word of God. The treacherous in verse 158 are so because “they do not keep thy Word.” And then Psalm 119:174, “I long for thy salvation, O Lord, and thy law is my delight.” The Word of God is always associated with the salvation of God. No wonder Paul said, “Do the work of an evangelist, Timothy, and in so doing, preach the Word.” Preach the Word.
It is a sufficient Word, beloved. I’ve lived long enough to see this testimony borne out again and again and again and again. I have no interest in standing up here and giving you my opinion about anything. I have no interest in getting up here and being clever with you. All I want to do is somehow, as a fallible preacher, get a hold of an infallible Word, rightly divide that by the direction of the Holy Spirit in diligent study, come to you, and let you know the mind of God and the mind of Christ so that Christ Himself can speak the truth which saves and sanctifies. That’s what we do. Now, that’s only one out of six - the best is yet to come.
Father, we thank you tonight for your Word. It is our life, it’s my life every day - every day - every day. How grateful I am for that. How grateful I am that you allow me that privilege, that immense privilege of communion with your inerrant, infallible, holy Word.
And how privileged I am that you by the Holy Spirit as anointing lead me to the knowledge of the truth that is a right representation. That’s my constant prayer, that I may be a voice through which the shepherd can speak to His flock, through which the Lord of the church can speak to His beloved church, through which the Savior can speak to the lost. What a high and holy privilege. At the same time, what an immense responsibility of which James said, “Stop being so many teachers, for theirs is a greater condemnation.” Such a serious responsibility.
Lord, please do not let your Word fall into the hands of careless people. Reassert the truth in a generation of people who don’t even believe there is such a thing as truth and in a church that has grown cold and indifferent even for the power of the Word. And raise up many preachers who will do what you have designed to be done, and by their preaching many will be saved and sanctified through the Word.
Father, bring us to the Word every time we gather, asking to be transformed, asking that its comprehensive, divine power would totally transform our entire inner person. It can do that when it’s mixed with faith; that is to say, when we believe it and embrace it, put it into action.
Do your work through your Word and keep us all faithful to it. We’ll thank you. In the Savior’s name. Amen.
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